Civil rights groups and families in New Mexico have won a lawsuit that maintained the state hasn't provided the education mandated by the New Mexico Constitution, particularly for minority and low-income students, reported KRQE in Albuquerque.
In its ruling, the court stated the funding the state is providing through its at-risk formula and Title 1 is not enough to educate at-risk students.
The court gives the state until April 2019 to take concrete steps towards the court mandate, but the state said it plans to appeal the ruling.
Lawsuits over lack of education funding continue to crop up with increasing regularity following the recession of 2008-2009. During that period, states slashed budgets down to the bone. In Indiana, for instance, funding is still short of what it was pre-recession -- by $511 million.
The latest legal strategy of these cases across the country, though, has been to take the focus off of the dollar amount of funding for public education and instead emphasize the state’s mandated standards for student achievement. Plaintiffs aim to show that a state can’t meet its own higher standards without higher per-pupil funding, which is proving to be a more simple case to make. That leaves states with an unfunded mandate, a violation of the state’s constitution.
In this current wave, the Kansas Supreme Court has found the state’s education funding formula isn’t sufficient to fulfill its standards, as has the Washington State Supreme Court. Schools and education advocates in Pennsylvania celebrated recently when the state supreme court reinstated a lawsuit around an inadequate school funding formula. And in Connecticut, a ruling on a similar suit is expected next year.
Despite the tide apparently turning in favor of schools and education advocates, none of the players are sure where states will get the money, often amounting to billions, to pay for the mandated changes. The needs of schools must be weighed against the voices of taxpayers, who want a say over how their money is spent. For now, school administrators can focus on carefully documenting their wise spending and regularly communicating with families, in order to be able to demonstrate the need for increased funding down the line.